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Iraq: Country of conflict
Situated in the cradle of civilization, Iraq has a history marked by cultural conflicts.
As the United States plans a possible invasion, we look at Iraq’s history and people.
■ Capital: Baghdad
■ Population: 23.3 million, slightly
larger than the population of Texas
■ Population density: 139 people per
■ Languages: Arabic (official).
■ Religion: Iraqis are primarily
Muslims (Christians and others account
for only 3 percent of the population).
The country has about 60 percent to 65
percent Shiite Muslims, arid 32 percent
to 37 percent Sunni Muslims.
■ Area: About 167,400 square miles,
siighUy more than twice the size of
■ Government: Republic
■ Leader: President and Prime
Minister Saddam Hussein
■ GDP (2001 estimate): SS7 billion
■ Monetary unit: Oinar
■ Crude oil reserves (2000 estl-
mate): 113 billion barrels
■ Industries: Textiles, chemicals, oil
■ Agricultural products: Grains,
including wheat, barley and rice; dales;
■ Military: Army: 424,(K)0; navy:
2,(X)0; air force: 30,()(X); air defense
command (missiles): 17,0(K); security
and border guards: 44.0(X)
■ Missiles: Short-range missiles of
various types, including Scuds, capable
of reaching Israel
■ Nuclear warheads: Not yet
■ Terrorist links: Sponst)rs dissident
activity overseas and supports various
lenxmst groups, allowing some to
maintain offices in Iraq
■ Web site: www.iroqi-mission.org
Less than S%
Turkmen, Assy'''an 9nd ither^
PER CAPITA GDP
20U0 a«timdt« n J.6. JOiliirs
About 40 percent of Iraq
is desert. A breakdown
of the country’s terrain:
An Najaf •
C 2002 KRT
Graphic: Todd Lindeman
By Warren P. Strobei,
Knight Ridder New spapers
The relationship between the
United States and Iraq has a
long and complicated history,
marked by shifting alliances
and various miliiary campaigns.
And in the latest twist in the snarled
relationship, the United States is threat
ening military action against Iraq. TTie
Bush administration could u.se military
force to topple Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein if he refuses to give up sus
pected chemical, nuclear and biological
But tangled relations between the
two nations began years ago. In the
198()s. the Reagan administration tilted
toward Saddam and aided his regime,
following the 1979 Islamic revolution
in Iran and the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq
war the next year. Al the time, the
United States feared the spread of
Iran’s virulently anti-American strain of
Cooper^ion between the United
States and Iraq continued until the eve
of Iraq’s invasion of the small nation of
Kuwait in August 1990.
Iraqi troops were expelled from
Kuwait by a United States-led coalition
during O^ration Desert Storm, and
Fhresident George Bush and his aides
believed Saddam would fall from
power. Iraq's ethnic Kurds in the north
and Shiite majority in the south rose up
against the regime, but Saddam and his
Baathist administration brutally sup-
1 ■ ( -j*
•| iiinTii ir~ i'n' '
Iraqis walk by a mural of Saddam
Hussein in Saddam City, a neigh
borhood in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad.
pressed the revolts.
For the next seven years, Saddam,
the United States and the United
Nations played a cat-and-mouse game
over U.N. weapons inspectors who
were sent to Iraq. They were charged
with finding and destroying Iraq’s
weapons of mass destruction within
months of the Gulf War’s end.
Finally, in E)ecember 1998, frustrat
ed with Iraq’s continued blocking of
full inspections, the inspectors were
pulled out and the United Stales began
a four-day bombing campaign called
Operation Desert Fox.
About the same lime, President Bill
Clinton made getting rid of Saddajn —
a so-called “regime change” — fonual
U.S. policy, but his administration did
little to carry it out.
But that changed after the Sept. 11
attacks, when President George W.
Bush and his advisers grew increasing
ly concerned that Saddam might give
his weapons of mass destruction to ter
rorist groups. The likelihood of that
happening is a matter of intense dispute
among Iraq experts.
But with the war in Afghanistan
largely complete, the Bush administra
tion has moved to confront, and if nec
essary, pre-empt, Saddam.
The president has said he will lead a
coalition of countries in military action
against the Iraqi government if it refus
es to allow unfettered weapons inspec
Few doubt the U.S. military — with
weapons more pt^tent than during the
Gulf War — could overwhelm the Iraqi
military, which has an aging arsenal
and poor morale. But major uncertain
ties remain: Would Saddam unleash
chemical and biological weapons on
U.S. troops? Would American forces
get bogg^ down in urban warfare?
And perhaps the largest lingering
question: Who would rule Iraq after
Iraq's power players
Biographical information about Saddam Hussein and his family is hard to pin down. No official biography is available for
Saddam, and information about his children is spotty. But here are some facts about the family, drawn Irom various sources:
■ Full name:
Saddam Hussein al-
■ Bom: April 28,
1937. in Iraq’s Tikrit
District, north of
■ Family: Married
Sajida Khairalla in
1963; two sons, three
■ Education: Student. University
of Cairo law school. 1%2: law degree.
University of Baghdad. 1971
■ Early years: In 1959, Saddam
particip>at^ in an assassination attempt
on Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul Karim
Kassim. He was wounded, and lived in
exile in Syria and Egypt for four years.
He return^ to Iraq in 1963.
■ Politk^al career: Joined Baath
party in 1957: acting deputy chairman.
Revolutionary Command Council.
1968-69; deputy chairman. l%9-79;
chairman. 1979 to present; president of
Iraq, 1979 to present; prime minister,
19S4 to present
■ Alternate spellings: Odai, Uday
■ Born: 1964
■ Business and political career:
Controls Iraqi media including a major
television network and newspaper; runs
a militia group; heads Iraq’s Olympic
■ Assassination attempt: In
December 1996, an assassination
attempt failed, leaving him severely
■ Alternate spelling: Qusai
■ Born: 1966
■ Business and political career:
Thought to head Iraq’s intemal security
forces, possibly the nation’s Special
Security Organization, which interro
gates and executes political enemies
and their families, and guards Iraq's
chemical and biological arsenal
■ Assassination attempt: In
August 2002, Qusay was wounded in
the arm during an assassination
Two of Saddam’s daughters married
brothers, who defected in the mid-
1990s and spoke of overthrowing
They later returned to Iraq after
being assured of their safety. The two
men died several days after returning to
Iraq in an alleged shootout.
Tribal identity is strong in Iraq.
Much of Saddam’s government is
made up of members of his family
from Tlkrit. Many of Saddam’s person
al protection unit, the Anm Al l^ass.
come from Tikrit.
Other tribes in Iraq include the
Dulain. the Abu Hamdan. Zobeida and
hundreds more. Previous Iraqi rulers
have tried to crush the tribes, but
Saddam has nurtured them, hoping to
win their support.
Present-day Iraq was formerly
Mesopotamia an area between the
Tigris and Euphrates rivers that became
known as the “cradle of civilization.”
The region saw the rise of many cul
tures, including the Sumer, Akkadia
and Babylonia. A look at the area’s
milestones, both ancient and modem:
■ 3000 B.C.: The civilization of Sumer
rises in Mesopotamia. The Sumerians
develop writing called cuneiform and
the wheel, and build temple pyramids
■ 2350 B.C.: Sumer falls to the
Akkadians, led by King Sargon. Over
the next 400 years, the Akkadians falter
and the Amorites — based in Babylon,
a city near present-day Baghdad —
■ 1792 B.C.: King Hammurabi of
Babylon begins his reign and expands
Babylonia west and south.
■ 1600 B.C.; The Kassites conquer
Babylonia. The area experiences
growth even as rival groups challenge
each other for control of the region.
■ 600 to 539 B.C.: The Babylonian
civilization rises again.
■ 539 B.C.: Persia under the leadership
of Cyrus the Great conquers the area.
■ 334 B.C.: Alexander the Great, ruler
of Macedonia, invades and conquers.
Various dynasties and civilizations will
sweep over the area from the Romans
to the Byzantine Empire in 627.
■ 637: After years of fighting, the
Abbasids, a Muslim group, take control
and establish a new capital, Baghdad.
They also introduce the monotheistic
faith of Islam.
■ 1258: The Mongols invade and
destroy Baghdad. Governments come
and go until 1533 when the Ottoman
Turks conquer Baghdad and the area.
They remain in control thniugh World
■ 1914: British forces invade southern
Iraq during World War I. In 1917. they
■ 1921: Prince Faisal is elected king of
a new nation, Iraq. The country is still
subject to British control.
■ 1927: Oil is dis
covered in Iraq.
■ 1932: Iraq
claims its indepen
Britain. It is admit
ted to the League of Nations. Over the
next several decades, various govern
ments are overtluDwn in coups.
■ 1963: The Baath Arab Socialist party
overthrows Prime Minister Karim
Kassem, who came to power in a 1958
■ 1979: Saddam Hussein overthrows
the government and becomes president.
■ 1980: Iraq invades Iran over land
ownership and religious differences.
■ 1982 to 1988: Iran counterattacks,
sparking a conflict that lasts until a
■ 1990: Iraq invades and occupies
■ 1991: A U.S.-led coalition frees
Kuwait and invades Iraq, destroying
much of its military infrastructure. The
United Nations orders weapons inspec
tions to ensure Saddam doesn’t rebuild
his weapons capability.
■ 1998: U.N. weapons inspectors with
draw from Iraq, saying Saddam has
prevented them from doing the neces
sary inspections. In December, the
United States and Britain begin four
days of airstrikes.
■ 2002: In January, President George
W Bush declares Iraq part of an “axis
of evil.” In October, the U.S. Congress
grants Bush a resolution “to use the
armed forces of the United States as he
determines to be necessary and appro
priate in order to defend the national
security of the United States against the
continuing threat posed by Iraq.”
— Tish Wells
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